Palm Springs Things to Do
Palm Springs in California has many great things to do. An oasis in the Colorado Desert with a glamourous history, it is a favourite holiday place of Los Angeles and is frequented by the rich and famous from around the world.
We like Palm Springs a lot. It was not too busy. It was easy to get around and there was lot of things to do. We felt very safe in Palm Springs, but, the crime stats for the area say otherwise. The incidents of rape and robbery are double that of the United States as a whole and Palm Springs has a rating of 5 where 100 is the safest.
Those stats sound scary. But we did not get that impression at all. There are some areas of Coachella Valley that you would not want to stay like parts of Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. Some of the outlying communities are impoverished and have the normal problems that come with that.
Just be careful where you decide to stay. Be careful where you go, do not walk alone at night, don’t go to sketchy places, do not leave things visible in your vehicle and use your traveller common sense.
For budget travel the best time to go to Palm Springs is in November. The temperature is warm not hot. It is a quieter time then Christmas, school holidays and the winter season. Quieter means cheaper.
July is really hot and windy and not what I like. If money is no object then January to March when the temperature is warm is the best time to go but it is the busiest time and most expensive time. Although it is a very good time to get away from the northern climates like Canada and the northern states.
Our Budget for Two Weeks
Ultimate Guide for Palm Springs
10 Top Things To Do In Palm Springs
1. Palm Springs Aerial Tram
While in Palm Springs we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top. It is a ten minute ride up to 8,516 foot elevation at the top for a spectacular view. Plan on having lunch at one of the two restaurants after a walk on the 50 miles of hiking trails. Click on the link to see the Aerial Cam and to see the current weather at the top.
2. Palm Springs Art Museum
The Palm Springs Art Museum is a wonderful modern art museum located at 101 Museum Drive. It is small but the displays are interesting and world class. A primary focus is on mid-century modernism with over 2,000 pieces. It also has a great collection of architecture and design.
Art Studio Workshops are offered by the museum and taught by top artists. The museum also contains the Annenberg Theatre that showcases top talent on Saturday evenings.
The Palm Springs Art Museum is free on Thursdays from 4-8 pm and second Sundays of the month. Admission is $14 for adults and $11 for seniors 62+
Sunnylands is a must if you like architecture and design. The 200 acre winter retreat of Walter and Lenore Annenberg from 1966 to 1990 has a 25,000 square foot house with a pink roof designed by A. Quincy Jones.
There are a number of tours. The tour of the historical house is limited to 7 people. Tickets are $45 and must be bought online in advance. Tickets go on sale on the 15th of the preceding month at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.
Located at the corner of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra Drives there is a wonderful Interpretive Centre with gardens. The Center is architecturally designed with soaring ceilings and a window wall looking out back onto a lush lawn.
Budget Tip: The Center and gardens are free and there is free yoga daily on the beautiful lawn in the garden.
4. McCallum Theatre
One evening we went to the ballet at the McCallum Theatre. It is one of the top theatres in the world with a remarkable roster of performing artists like John Cleese, Neil Sedaka, Philharmonix, Leann Rimes, Vienna Boys Choir, the Blue Man Group and many, many more including symphony and ballet throughout the season.
5. Joshua Tree National Park
6. Twentynine Palms
The town of Twentynine Palms is located by the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. It has a population of 31,000 people and has a large Marine base. We stopped there for lunch. There are a number of fantastic murals like this one throughout the city. In this mural, there is not a guy resting on the scaffold or a bull standing next to the mural. They are part of the mural! If you like this kind of art then make sure you stop by and spend some time looking at them.
7. Palm Canyon Theatre
Palm Canyon Theatre is located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive. The mission of the theatre is to offer affordable professional theatre entertainment. Tickets are under $30.
The small theatre allows every seat to be close to the stage. The acting and the venue are very professional. Past shows include Les Miserable, Mary Poppins, Jesus Christ Super Star and many more. We really enjoyed our evening at this community theatre.
8. Palm Spring Village Fest
There is always something going on in the Coachella Valley. Each community has market days on different days. Palm Springs shuts down the main drag every Thursday night from 6-10 pm for their market, Village Fest. There are over 180 vendors with lots of food, live music, and interesting wares for sale. I liked the custom sunglasses for dogs. Very cool.
9. Free Concerts
Spotlight 29 Casino has free concerts every Friday night. We were able to go to Johnny Cash and Abba tribute concerts while in Palm Springs. If you didn’t know better you would have sworn that it was the original entertainers. The casino is located right off the freeway to Indio.
10. Paint and Wine
We had a fun night at a Paint and Wine night that we found on Groupon for $25 each. It was held in a Palm Springs lounge and we painted a Van Gough Irises. The event is all about fun and meeting other people. I am positive that our art pieces will never be found hanging in any art gallery or for that matter, even in our house.
We had lots of fun and met an interesting couple. She was a nurse that filled short term contracts. They travelled around the United States and spend 3-6 months in different cities that they thought that they would like to explore. They had been doing that for four years at that time.
Palm Springs Restaurants
With 610 restaurants in Palm Springs area, there are no shortage of places to eat. Palm Springs has a lot of well-heeled residents and visitors. Good food, good prices and good atmospheres are demanded by these customers. And, the restaurant industry has provided just that. Good for us that are on cheap budget vacations.
We cooked most of our meals in our little house. The house was luxurious and it was set up for people that like to cook. A nearby supermarket specialized in single wrapped portions. Everything was wrapped including vegetables. It was good for picking up small things we needed.
For the bulk of our food and wine we went to the Costco off the freeway. As budget slow travellers we save hundreds of dollars shopping at Costco all over Canada and the United States. We think we may have shopped at more Costco stores than any other Costco member.
We ate at the Farmers’ Markets in La Quinta and Palm Springs. Some of the other places we did eat out are listed below.
Del Rey at Villa Royale
We had a great dinner at the Del Rey at Villa Royale with a Groupon coupon. It was a two for one special dinner that included a bottle of wine. I had a fall-off-the-bone lamb shank with expertly prepared sides and a big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon.
The food was suburb, the service was impecable, and the room was, well, dark – so none of my photos turned out. We give the meal a budget slow travel vacation two thumbs up.
The format of the restaurant has changed since then and it now only serves small plates. There are no full dinners served anymore.
The lounge is one of the best in Palm Springs. Happy Hour is from 4-6 p.m. with $10 sharing plates. A nice way to spend a couple of hours.
Escena Golf Course Restaurant
Escena Golf Course is ranked #6 public course in California. This is the view from the restaurant. We had enormous burgers with hand cut fries and a fresh side salad. What a view for lunch! Good food, good prices, wonderful vista! A budget slow travel vacation two thumbs up.
This looks like a drinking menu. The bottomless champagne is now $4.95 and well drinks are $4, but still, a great value. The food is good too. We had a great breakfast with the bottomless Champagne one time and the other time was for the Happy Hour Martini Burger which was fantastic, especially with the included Martini. A budget slow travel vacation two thumbs up.
Palm Springs Lulu California Bistro Brunch
Lulu California Bistro for brunch is a great way to spend Sunday morning. Brunch is from 11 am – 3 pm for $20 and they have unlimited drink specials. There is lots of energy at this open aired restaurant with a dog friendly patio. We had a wonderful time, eating and people watching.
Planning Our Trip to Palm Springs
Why Go To Palm Springs?
Palm Springs has an aura around it. It is just under a 2 hour drive from Hollywood. That is important. In the early days of Hollywood, actors were under contract to movie studios. The studio contracts forced them to be within 2 hours driving distance from the studio in case they were called to reshoot a scene. Palm Springs became the perfect place to get away from the pressures of Hollywood.
Palm Springs became Hollywood’s playground. Starting back in the 1920s with Charley Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and Clara Bow; continuing through the decades with Greta Garbo, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Gary Grant, Jack Benny, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor and many, many other celebrities like Albert Einstein.
The weather in Palm Springs is wonderful year round. It gets over 350 days of sunshine and has a comfortable temperature for most of the year. In the summer, it gets smoking hot with temperatures hitting 120F, although people that I talked to that live there, love that time of the year. The hotter the better as far as they are concerned.
Driving to Palm Springs
We were on a 9 month driving trip and drove to Palm Springs from Malibu where we had spent a week. It is a straight shot from Malibu to Palm Springs on Interstate 10 that is the start or finish of Route 66. It is a fast freeway and you better be on the ball as people are in a hurry and you have to keep up or get run over. Along the way, you drive through the spectacular San Gorgonio Pass.
Just outside of Palm Springs you will go by the impressive Morongo Casino that acts like a beacon with its impressive windswept geodesic roofline. We stopped for lunch.
Budget Tip: Join any Casino Players Club for free and they give you a welcome gift. If you join the free player’s club, the Morongo Casino will give you a two-for-1 buffet and $5-$50 free slot play. We ate for free and actually walked out with $40 in our pockets. That paid for our gas from Los Angeles to Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is Fantastic!
Palm Springs is a small city of just over 48,000 people. It has a small town feel to it. The main street, Canyon Drive is about 10 blocks long that is full of restaurants and shops. The restaurants are great. The restaurant scene is very competitive so prices are very reasonable and the food is terrific. It has everything that you could want. Sunday brunches are fabulous but make sure you get there early or you won’t get a table.
Palm Springs is made up of many small neighbourhoods. We rented a house in the Movie Colony area. It was exactly a mile to downtown. Other areas include Old Las Palmas, Ruth Hardy Park, El Mirador and Central Palm Springs. Each area has an interesting history and they are lovely to walk through and look at the mid-century houses and cottages that have been restored and modernized.
Where We Stayed In Palm Springs
I found our rental agency advertising several places under Vacation Rentals on Craigslist. I made contact with a very professional property manager. He recommended the small house that we rented. It was centrally located and the rent was $750 per week which was the budget we had set for accommodations in Palm Springs.
Professional Property Manager
He met us at the house and spend an hour with us showing us how to work the many electronic devices and systems. Luckily there was an extensive house binder of all the rules, with clear directions and codes for the alarm system, and passwords for the wifi and TV. It also had important phone numbers and other important information.
Gifts for Us!
He left an amazing amount of welcome gifts. There were a dozen red roses, a large bowl of fruit, in the fridge was a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle of white wine. There was 2 pounds of nuts, cheese, cream, eggs, bread, jam and coffee. We were blown away.
That first night we stayed in and cooked. We loved the pool with a hot tub right out the door all lite up at night. The house was so comfortable with plush luxurious towels and bedding. The mattress was extremely comfortable. Outside of the master bedroom was a small cozy sitting area with a day bed all lite up with twinkling lights. We couldn’t be happier.
In the morning as we got ready to go exploring and were eating our breakfast of eggs and fruit that he had left us, we saw workmen out at the pool. They were moving things and chipping at the pool deck. As we left, I asked what they were doing. They told us that they had to replace the pool deck.
Oh, I said, “How long will that take? A couple of days?”
“No,” they said, “It is a two week job.”
We looked at each other. That’s the whole time we are here! I called the property manager. He was livid. No one had told him. He was very upset. Much more than we were.
More Gifts For Us!
The next day he called us and told us that for the inconvenience he was going to give us a full day spa treatment at the Two Bunch Palms Spa in an oasis just north of Palm Springs in Desert Hot Springs. It included access to the hot spring and pools, lunch for two and two massages. We looked it up later and that was worth $300.
And, he said, he was going to refund us $500 cash. Which he did a couple of days later when we met him at a bar downtown. He bought us drinks and handed over the $500 cash. We were blown away! He also gave us a coupon for 20% off any rental of his in the next year. Wow! Thanks Devon.
What We Did in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is located in the Coachella Valley which is comprised of five main communities. All the communities join each other and when you are driving the only way you can tell you are in another community is by the sign on the road.
Another way to tell the difference is the quality of the road. In wealthy communities like Rancho Mirage, the roads are recently blacktopped with meridians loaded with gorgeous plants. In communities like Cathedral City, the road is rough and full of potholes.
Palm Springs Is Our Favourite City
We spent time in all the communities but like Palm Springs the best because it has a small town and homey feel. Some of the other communities like Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, and La Quinta are full of exclusive gated communities and you feel shut out, which you are. I have never seen so many Rolls Royces convertibles in one place, all being driven by tanned older gentlemen all decked out in the best golfing attire that money can buy.
Of course there are many golf courses in the Coachella Valley. One hundred and twenty four to be exact. I used to golf back in my younger days but gave it up when kids came along as it took too much time away from them. I always said that I would take it back up when I retired but I have not found the time as other activities fill my day. Plus at a $100+ a day each for green fees, it doesn’t really fit budget travel.
Travel Gear You May Need For Your Trip To Palm Springs
Palm Springs gets 350 days of sunshine a year. It is important to stay hydrated, wear sun block and sunglasses and keep the sun off your head. I like to use packing cubes to organize my things. I find it so handy to order online from Amazon for these things. If you click on any of the items you will be taken to Amazon and you can browse for the items that you want. You get great prices and convenience and we get a small commission that helps support our website. Thank you.
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How Do You Get to Palm Springs?
There are non-stop flights to Palm Springs from all over the United States and Canada. International flights from Europe, Asia and South America can fly direct to Los Angeles. It is a short two hour drive from the L.A. airport. There are shuttles and private cars available that will take you on Interstate 10 to Palm Springs.
Cheap Flights To Palm Springs
We never leave home without travel insurance. We want travel insurance from a company that is experienced with local and world travel and gives us the best rates possible. For budget travellers it is important to get the best rates possible and we have found that World Nomad Insurance the best in the industry.
World Nomad Insurance is an affiliate of ours and we earn a small commission if you book with them from our website. This does not cost you a penny more. Click on the link – World Nomad Insurance – to price out the perfect travel insurance for your trip.
Do your homework for where you want to stay. I would not want to stay near the Interstate as the wind blows like crazy through this area. It is way better to be closer to the mountains. That is one of the primary reasons we decided to stay right in Palm Springs. There are cheaper places outside of the main communities but there is a reason they are cheaper. The wind is one of the them, the daily distance to activities and sightseeing sites is another reason and they may also be in a less desirable location
I spend hours and hours looking at accommodations because it is so important. When you consider that you are sleeping eight hours a day and another four hours dressing, eating and relaxing you are spend at least half of every day in your accommodation. It can make or break your trip.
Budget Tip: Spending a week is the cheapest way to rent accommodations compared to nightly accommodations.
Hotwire Will Find Your Perfect Accommodation
If you are going just for a few days, book with Hotwire.com for up to 60% off 4-star accommodations. Click on the link below. We have saved thousands of dollars booking with Hotwire.
Hotels in Palm Springs
Vacation Rentals in Palm Springs
For those of you who prefer personal tours, we highly recommend ToursbyLocals. There are ten tours for Palm Springs ranging from 2 hours to 8 hours. Here are 2 random reviews of the tours:
Jack looked after us very well and took great care in giving us an amusing and informative few hour tour of Palm Springs and the many interesting homes and points of interest. Even as a long time visitor to Palm Springs area I learned a great deal of new information and some great gossip!
Several friends visiting from New York City and I took Jack’s tour of mid-century modern Palm Springs. We thoroughly enjoyed it! Not only is Jack the repository of a wealth of information about the history of PS, but he has unbridled enthusiasm about his hometown, which we really liked. Strongly recommend this tour.